The Kirkpatrick Chapel is located in Old Queens Campus of Rutgers. The Chapel is part of the State University of New Jersey. The chapel has sat there since 1873 (Kirkpatrick Chapel, 2019). The chapel is nondenominational and serves various purposes such as baptisms, weddings, lectures, memorials, and other events. It was constructed by Henry Janeway Hardenberg in the memory the wife of one of the trustees of the university by the name Sophia Astley Kirkpatrick. The university was named as an heir to her estate and thus the amount was used to construct the chapel.
Buildings as Part of the Narrative of the Environment
Buildings have a larger purpose than keeping the weather out or displaying good taste, walls to hide behind and an opportunity for the architects to make money. They do all of the above and more. They are part of the social life of their environment. They give structure to institutions. In the example above, the chapel is a structure that defines the institutions. The brick and mortar building have the ability to create durable social networks and are persistent in behavior patterns (Gieryn, 2002). People gather in these buildings and form social networks that solidify the society against all forces of change.
The buildings are vulnerable to discourse. Buildings can be demolished by people as well as destroyed by weather. The buildings can, however, be rebuilt and are able to narrate a new story that changes according to the changing times. Individuals are shaped by structures. Bourdieu carried out empherical analysis that determined that space in a structure shape the social and cultural elements of individuals (Gieryn, 2002). They for example showcase the gendered division of labor. Built up regions represent intimate spaces where people meet for social and human agencies. Buildings as technological artifacts structure social action (Gieryn, 2002). Technology is part of the goals and plans of human agents and thus it becomes an obligation to include. They also conceal the political interests in the design by interpreting the register as cost effective, aesthetic and efficient. Artifacts also stabilize social action as they increase the cost of the next innovative use. Buildings are artifacts of technology as they enable people to achieve their practical goals. They store technology that help solve various practical ends and allow for better artifacts to be created in the future to solve issues that they do not resolve. Buildings therefore showcase various technological artifacts that allow the practical use of the buildings. Buildings therefore provide a narrative of innovations and technology that have made various practical uses to be possible.
Buildings are technological artifacts (Gieryn, 2002). Buildings are a product of human agency and social structuring forces. They are therefore a consequence of the social practices (Gieryn, 2002). The buildings take into consideration both the human and non-human needs.
Landmarks such as the Kirkpatrick Chapel is a field for cultural contestation (Jones, 2006). Landmarks have been used to shape and symbolize collective identities. Some buildings and landmarks, however, get aligned with various identity discourse. Architecture has been used by politicians to invent traditions and broadly construct identities. They express the collective identity of the people in an environment. The use of buildings and landmarks to share a common cultural identity has however been faced by challenges as a result of the diverse cultures that exist in an environment. This had led to conflicts and competition over identities (Jones, 2006). The cultural discourse has however been difficult to manage by both the politicians and cultural elites. The cultural identities that are reproduced through the buildings and landmarks, however, depend on the people who are in power (Jones, 2006). Those in power attach dominant identities to architectural projects. Buildings and landmarks, therefore, tell a political narrative that include the culture, nation, and state statements and articulate state projects.
Architects working on a various project that are not state-sponsored and try to create a new architectural discourse that reference multiracialism, representation, diversity, and accessibility (Jones, 2006). They try and create a more diverse image of the people in the environment. They provide a cultural space where new identities are expressed and contested. An example is the Jewish Museum that is located in Belin.
The tension and ambiguities associated with some of the architecture and identities led to the redesigning of the Ground Zero site that is located in New York City (Jones, 2006). This is the locations of the Twin Towers that were bombed in the 9/11 attack. The rebuilding is meant to show the resilience of the United States Citizens that the terrorist attack did not break their resolve. In this case, the rebuilding was expected to show the resolve of the people. The architecture is therefore politicized to present a national culture. It is also used to remind the people of what happened and not merely bury what happened and show how they have risen from the tragedy. In the United States, many architectural projects are nationalized while in Europe the buildings and landmarks present post-national identity (Jones, 2006). The new landmark provides an opportunity that represents various cultural spheres in one project. The architecture is however highly charged on the identity discourse. Buildings are used to represent the politicized meanings. Post-national architecture, however, has the potential to constitute various identities in a diverse culture.
Public monuments play a significant role in both individual and collective meaning (Johnson, 2002). The monuments teach people of their national heritage and the public responsibility that comes with it. Many monuments serve as a memory of various historical aspects of a nation and people that shaped them. They raise emotions and ideologies on various issues. There are various confederate monuments across the United States. Various Confederate monuments have however been termed as racist. They now remind people of the history of the country where one community was used as slaves by many confederates. They raise emotions in the past and help in establishing individual and group identities.
Various public statues across America are used in the process of sectional reconciliation. The statues are used to remind the people of a time where there was division in the state. The North Whites were against slavery and the Southern-Whites who supported slavery. There is however discourse in one of the statues of General Lee who was racist but the statues only represented him as a hero (Johnson, 2002). This statues is an example of how the statues and monuments fail in providing the full picture of American Civil war.
Landmarks and buildings are used as narratives of various events in history. As shown above, the American Civil War statues were part of the narratives involving slavery. Another controversial architecture is the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial that is located in Washington DC. The memorial was meant to commemorate America's role in the war. The memorial showed the social, ethnic, regional and gender tensions that exists in the country. There was discourse because the designer was Chinese-American and female architecture student. People did not like the deviations of this memorial from the other war memorials as well as the message that the memorial was transmitting (Johnson, 2002).
In conclusion, buildings and landmarks play an important role in an environments narrative. They are used as memorial of current and past events. Reminding people of their history and bringing people together in reconciliation. They are also used to serve various political needs such as showing the national culture of the people. Buildings are molded by people and in turn mold the people (Gieryn, 2002). They are social networking structures that bring of various cultures together. They evoke infinite narratives that are not always constant. Landmark architectural projects also provide an opportunity where collective identities can be represented. Archtecture is used to highlight identity discourse, tensions and encourage reflection on various sociological questions (Jones, 2006). Buildings carry various meanings and thus is involved in reflecting and constructing social meanings. There are various parties that are involved in defining the meaning of an architectural project who include politicians, media, capitalist representatives and architects. They therefore impose the cultural interpretation on the economic and social significance of the project. Symbolic construction of buildings is part of communicative context that should not be manipulated by cultural or political elites.
Gieryn, T. F. (2002). What buildings do. Theory and society, 31(1), 35-74.
Johnson, N. C. (2002). Mapping monuments: the shaping of public space and cultural identities. Visual communication, 1(3), 293-298.
Jones, P. R. (2006). The sociology of architecture and the politics of building: The discursive construction of Ground Zero. Sociology, 40(3), 549-565.
Kirkpatrick Chapel. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.kirkpatrickchapel.rutgers.edu/
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